Chapter 42:

No Play, No Strife

Couple That Can't Touch

After a somewhat silent lunch, Narumi stood up first and walked away. She was upset because Koji had revealed her secret, but not before excusing herself by telling us that she needed to practice for the Drama Club play—which still was three hours away. Hisa said that it was still very early, but it wasn't a bad idea to start practicing. She finished her food and also headed to the gym.

Rem, Koji, Kawahara, Tarō, and I remained together. We went back to the Art Club to spend some time with Tarō as he displayed more of his origami skills. Sora-chan was there as well. She approached us to chat a couple of times and Koji would step away and do the same. Jealous thoughts appeared in my head, which I instantly repealed. Koji wouldn't do something like that. I wanted to ask him more about their relationship, but that could wait for later.

An hour later, we took a break to visit the Science Club. It was insane. Maybe more so than in previous years. Yet nothing could beat Kawahara's explosive expositions. Literally explosive. I hadn't asked her why she got expelled from the club, but that probably was one of the reasons.

The room was packed with the many experiments on display, ranging from basic yet impressive to absurdly complex. Volcanos, circuits, robots, and even videogames—which I didn't know were part of the club.

Just like us—the Music Club—the Science Club had also fought for a bigger room. Seeing their hard work made me feel threatened with losing. But we had a trick up our sleeve; Shimamura-sensei was able to get permission to perform our concert in the gym. If anything was going to get us some attention, it was a place with enough space to fit the entire school.

Tarō headed back to the Art Club, whilst Kawahara and Koji needed to get ready for the Cooking Club restaurant. Rem and I followed them to the cafeteria, where they dressed as waiters. It was my first time seeing them wear something akin to a suit; they didn't look half bad.

They and many of the other members—also dressed as waiters—walked around the first and second floors to prepare the tables. While some of them were small—like the one Rem and I were sitting at—the majority were lengthy. They couldn't do much about the arrangement, but they put tablecloths and decorations on them to make them look fancy.

Even though the restaurant was announced to open twenty minutes later, more people started arriving as the word of their setup ran through the school. Since they were ready sooner than expected, they opened early. They distributed the menu and people started to order. The cafeteria became insanely busy in a blink. Every waiter ran around with their notepads or drinks to serve.

Neither Koji nor Kawahara were going to cook yet. Rem and I had eaten recently, so we preferred to leave the table for someone else. They looked so busy that we didn't want to distract them to tell them that we were going to the gym.

As soon as we arrived, someone stopped us at the entrance. They didn't want to let us in because they were still preparing everything. I messaged Hisa and she told us that she would wait for us behind the gym.

Once we walked around, we saw quite a few people outside. Some wore futuristic-looking costumes, just like Hisa.

"Hi. What brings both of you here?" she smiled.

"We are just taking a walk," Rem answered.

"Is the fair that boring?"

"We've already eaten and stayed at the Art Club for two hours," I replied. "There isn't much left to do until your play."

"You won't practice for your concert?" Hisa asked.

"It's still four hours away and we've already practiced a lot. Besides, we need to wait for the play to be over, then we'll prepare everything and rehearse."

"I see. Well, sorry I can't offer you some fun. I need to practice more and Tokugawa will kill you if you go inside now."

"I figured," Rem giggled.

"How do I look in this, by the way?"

Hisa put her hands on her waist and made many poses as if she was modeling. Her costume covered her entire body. It looked heavy and uncomfortable to move in.

"Not very flattering," Rem responded.

Hisa playfully pushed Rem. "Come on, you could at least lie a bit."

Suddenly, Tsuga-san came out of the door. He wore a strange, red, ripped cloak. A scar, poorly made with makeup, crossed his face.

"Kozue-san, Masuda-san. I didn't expect to see you here."

"Hi, Tsuga-san. I see you are already in character as well," I said.

"We just finished rehearsing with costumes and makeup for the first time. I'm going to make you fall in love with my character."

Not knowing what to say, I merely giggled. "Are you the villain?"

"That's tricky to answer—"

Hisa shushed at him. "No spoilers. Don't ruin it for them."

"Right. Well, look forward to it. I'll rest a bit before continuing. See you soon."

After he walked away, Rem and I said goodbye to Hisa to let her relax and practice. We wandered around the sports teams' stalls to see if something interesting was happening. Some of them had activities with prizes, while others were simply accepting applications.

The most interesting one was the Kendo Team. They would let you wear their clothes and equipment to teach you the basics. I couldn't try it because of my ankle, but Rem did. It was fun seeing her struggle. So much so that, if I didn't know better, I would've thought that she had never participated in any kind of sport. Sadly, not many people visited them.

With not much time left before the play, we went looking for Tarō. Then we headed to the cafeteria for Koji and Kawahara, but they were still extremely busy. They asked us to save a seat for them and told us that they would catch up as soon as possible.

Even though the play was going to start in thirty minutes, the doors were still closed. The line to enter the gym was huge. People continued to arrive behind us once we had queued up.

With only twenty minutes remaining, they opened the doors. The line slowly progressed until we finally got inside.

Hundreds of chairs were placed on the court, just like in an assembly. A lot of the first rows were already full and, because we had to save seats for Koji and Kawahara, we sat back quite a ways from the front.

They had installed an entire structure for the big red curtains. Something I hadn't expected at all. However, I realized that they would be useful for the concert later that day.

Suddenly, the second call was announced through the speakers. Only five minutes remained and Koji and Kawahara were nowhere to be seen.

Believing that they weren't going to make it on time, I was glad when they arrived with two minutes left. Rem moved to sit next to me, followed by Kawahara and Tarō. Koji sat the farthest from me, which was for the best so we could avoid any kind of touch accident. Still, I couldn't help but feel a bit frustrated.

The final call was announced. The lights dimmed and the entire gym turned silent. A few seconds later, the curtains opened. The scenery of what looked like a futuristic police station appeared. Around fifteen Drama Club members stood still in the middle of the stage, wearing the same costume that Hisa was wearing earlier.

Hisa stood among the fifteen people, as well as Narumi, Oshiro, and Yasutake—Kanna. Someone else—probably the commander—stood in front of everyone. He gave an inspirational speech before giving the orders of finding the mercenary that wanted to destroy a planet.

Hisa's costume made sense now. She was some kind of futuristic policewoman. While Tsuga-san was probably the mercenary, judging by the cloak he was wearing.

The fifteen futuristic cops were divided into three groups of five to look for the mercenary. They all had their protagonism by finding important clues. However, a lot of them died. Hisa and Yasutake were in the same group. They fell into a trap which then exploded. Hisa survived with very bad injuries. She was able to return to the station and tell the others what they had found.

A ten-minute break was announced through the speakers. People stood up to go to the bathroom or head outside for a bit. We stayed where we were sitting, excitingly talking about what we saw.

The ten minutes flew by. Everyone was ready to continue watching, but it didn't resume. Even five minutes later, nothing happened. We started to get concerned.

Finally, they announced that they were having some technical difficulties and they would need around ten minutes to fix them.

I messaged Hisa, curious about what had happened. She replied that it wasn't technical; Tsuga-san had left and hadn't come back. Because of their costumes and makeup, they weren't allowed to leave backstage. Because of that, only a couple of teachers were looking for him. She asked us to help.

We separated to find him. Koji was going to look on the third floor, Rem and I on the second one, and Kawahara and Tarō on the first one.

A few minutes passed with no luck. I walked near the stairs when I heard Koji's voice. He was arguing with someone upstairs. I ran and found him staring at Tsuga-san, who was no longer wearing his costume.

"It's none of your business," Tsuga-san said.

"You can't chicken out just because you're nervous," Koji replied.

"I'm not nervous, dumbass. You wouldn't understand because you have the perfect family, money, and fame. Everyone loves you."

"Why don't you try me?"

Tsuga-san looked at me. "Why did you choose someone as stupid as him over me? I have better grades than him. I'm more handsome. I'm friendlier."

My blood boiled.

"Because I can accept my flaws," Koji said.

I walked towards Tsuga-san.

"Flaws?" Tsuga-san said, turning back to Koji. "Your flaw is that you think your life is hard—"

I slapped him as hard as I could.

They stared at me. Koji looked surprised, but Tsuga-san was shocked.

"I'm sorry, but you're the stupid one here," I said. "You keep saying the same things about Koji while you don't even know him. I chose him because he accepts who he is and wants to improve. You just keep complaining and you don't even tell us what is bothering you. Also, didn't you tell me that you were going to make me fall in love with your character? Seems like you're a liar, too."

My blood cooled down. My brain started to be rational again. We stood in silence for a long while. Tsuga-san looked at the floor.

"The hospital called again. My mom had another attack just now. She could die at any moment. She has been on the verge of dying for the past two months and I want to be with her when she closes her eyes for the last time.

"I don't have anyone else. My dad left us before I was born. Now I live with my aunt and uncle, but they don't like me. I'm a burden to them. They don't have much money, yet they still pay for the hospital expenses."

Koji and I looked at each other, speechless.

"That's what I was hiding."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because I don't need pity."

We stayed silent.

"I'm sorry," Koji apologized. "I didn't know what you were going through. It's your decision if you want to go. But at least tell the club that you're leaving."

"I was going to do that when you stopped me. But it won't be necessary anymore. I'll go back in a few minutes, just leave me alone for a moment."

Koji and I smiled.

"Sure. See you in a bit," I replied. "By the way, I know it isn't the same, but you could send a video message to your mom to tell her what you're up to."

Tsuga-san smirked. "I'll do just that."

He turned around and entered our classroom. Koji and I headed downstairs only to find Rem, Kawahara, and Tarō waiting at the bottom. Rem looked like she was about to cry. They confessed they had been spying.

We returned to our seats which, luckily, were still free. Ten minutes later, the curtains opened and the play resumed.

The remaining cops—including Hisa, Narumi, and Oshiro—were sent to where they believed the mercenary was hiding his spaceship. And they were right. Tsuga-san finally appeared, wearing the same cloak from earlier but with better makeup. He indeed was the villain.

Once Tsuga-san saw the cops, he ran. They followed him through the alleys while shooting. Suddenly, an electric trap activated. Hisa, Narumi, and Oshiro were the only ones to dodge it. Tsuga-san, thinking he had killed everyone, got in his ship and took off. He didn't realize that the cops managed to get on board as well.

They didn't have much time until Tsuga-san reached space to destroy the planet, so the three remaining cops separated to search for him. Narumi, alone in a room, heard shots. She ran to look for the source, only to find Oshiro panting. She told Narumi that Tsuga-san had taken Hisa hostage in the room ahead.

With no choice left, they busted into the room. Oshiro started shooting immediately, whilst Narumi hesitated a bit. Tsuga-san protected himself with a shield. Hisa was nowhere to be seen.

Unable to break his shield, they stopped shooting. Tsuga-san started talking to Narumi. He tried to convince her that, although the planet was inhabited, it had to be destroyed to avoid a major catastrophe that would destroy the adjacent planets. Including theirs. In disbelief, Narumi asked him why the police were trying to stop him. He didn't know, but he believed it was a selfish reason.

Out of nowhere, someone shot Oshiro from another room. It was Hisa. She was even more injured than before with gunshot wounds on her body. She told Narumi that Oshiro had shot her in the back. Oshiro recovered from Hisa's shot and shot her again, taking her down. She was about to shoot at Narumi, but Tsuga-san stood in front of her to protect her from the shots. As the shield began to break, Narumi asked Oshiro why she was doing it. She simply replied that they had their orders.

Tsuga-san ordered Narumi to press a button on the panel to shoot at the planet. Hesitant, she ran to it. The shield broke and Tsuga-san was shot down. Narumi managed to press the button before being shot by Oshiro. She lay on the ground whilst Oshiro approached the panel to cancel the charging of the shot. Tsuga-san grabbed her leg to stop her, but he was too weak to do anything. About to get shot a second time, Narumi shot Oshiro first, finally killing her.

The ship shot a laser at the planet and it was destroyed, along with its inhabitants. They might've killed millions of people, but they saved billions. Or so they believed. It didn't matter, Narumi and Hisa were now mercenaries too, and they had no other choice but to team up with Tsuga-san.

The curtains closed. It was a bittersweet ending. People stood up to clap and whistle, including us. Then, a minute later, the curtains opened again, with the entire Drama Club bowing on the stage. They received more claps.

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